After spending the last six months waiting for the return of White Collar, I was extremely excited when I was given the opportunity to chat with the show’s stars, Matt Bomer and Tim DeKay, during an hour-long press call on October 10th. As I was calling from Sydney, it was already the morning of October 11th – Bomer’s 36th birthday, so we kicked off my Q&A time with a hearty birthday wish from Down Under, and a promise that I would be having some ice-cream later that day in his honor (as he had mentioned that he would be celebrating the day by making home-made ice-cream from scratch and spending it with his family). Spoiler alert warning: whilst I have edited this conversation to avoid too many spoilers, there were some questions raised during the call relating to the season five premiere that can be construed as being a little spoilerish. However, this should not take away any of the fun that I am sure you will get from reading the following interview highlights and from watching this upcoming season.
Matt Bomer (MB): Wow, thank you! It’s an honor! It’s my first birthday wish ever from Australia.
Valerie Leung (VL): You’re very welcome. I had many tweets from your fans asking me to make sure to say happy birthday to you so you are very much loved around the world.
MB: Wow, please tell them all I said thank you.
VL: OK, first question: Is Peter going to regret bringing in Agent Siegel (Warren Kole’s character) as Neal’s new handler just as I’m sure he regretted bringing in Kramer in the past to investigate the U-boat treasure?
Tim DeKay (TDK): I don’t think we’ll regret it at all…if anything it would have been nice to have seen more of Warren and certainly Agent David Siegel. I think, just as it would have been great to see that stretch out more of Peter in prison, it would have also been fun to have stretched out Siegel. This is not a comment on the writing. I completely understand why they do the things they have to do, but it’s more of a comment on how much Warren brought to the role, the whole dynamic between Peter, Neal and David Siegel.
MB: I love working with Warren. He brought a lot to the role and made a lot out of the role. I had a great time with him.
VL: I’m going to use a Breaking Bad analogy. I feel like Neal is a bit like Walter White – he does bad things, he breaks the law but we still want Neal to win and we still back him. But it gets to a point where he’s hurt enough people, especially the people who love him, and you just want him to pay the price, and I don’t mean having people he loves pay the price. Why should the audience still keep cheering for him? Why should Peter still believe that Neal can be redeemed?
MB: You have to look at the motivation for the behavior. If you look at Neal’s intentions from the beginning of this whole series, even when he’s stolen things in the past, he always says it’s never about the money, it’s more about the game. Certainly in the framework of this season, everything he does that plays around that grey area is motivated out of love and best intentions. The execution that makes that happen is where he gets into trouble. But at the end of the day, his motives are somewhat pure. And if I were Peter, I would have kicked the shit out of him, to be honest with you. But I do think that if we pulled that mutual respect and appreciation, the show would really lose a big part of its central relationship. And a credit to Tim, as far out as the writers would have Neal go to execute things, over the course of the years, he has done a great job in grounding the show. Peter is really the root of the show. He is the one who is our solid ground. Tim and the writers have found a great way for Peter to still have a great respect for and value Neal in spite of all the grief he’s caused.
TDK: I think there have been times when Peter would like to beat the shit out of Neal. But Peter also knows Neal is coming from the right place. He sees that the guy is not crazy and he certainly doesn’t want to ever physically harm anybody, but sometimes jeopardizes other people’s lives and maybe doesn’t quite think that through. But that’s the thing…it’s like Tom and Jerry…he really wants to get the mouse but…if Peter was really just trying to get Neal and get him back to prison and realize he shouldn’t have hired this guy and brought him out…it’s been done. That’s not nearly as interesting as this constant tug of war.
MB (with a chuckle): It all goes back to Tom and Jerry.
TDK: Yeah it does…always back to Tom and Jerry…with a little bit of Abbott and Costello mixed in there.
MB: Sure…and a pinch of Simon and Simon.
TDK: Just a pinch.
Well, those dynamic TV duos certainly brought back a lot of childhood memories for me, too.
And now, on to some other highlights from the call:
Neal’s new handler – Agent David Siegel (played by Warren Kole)
Peter admits he doesn’t have the objectivity anymore to keep an eye on Neal and that’s why he’s bringing in someone from the outside. He also feels that Neal needs some tough love. Was it a humbling moment for Peter? Tim says it was more of a disappointing moment for Peter because it meant not being able to do the things he loved to do with Neal, pursuing a case and doing the chase. Also Peter finds he has a personal investment with Neal – if that relationship had failed then Peter has failed.
What can we expect in Season 5?
This season for Neal is about best intentions gone awry. He has to skirt issues of trust to try and make reparations for what was ultimately his fault for putting Peter in jeopardy. Matt says the first time he saw Tim in the orange jumpsuit, it was clearly a role reversal that Neal can relate to in many ways and feels a sense of responsibility for. It makes him dig deeper into his bag of tricks to try and fix things (like a typical guy he wants to fix everything). Matt adds that Tim looks fantastic in orange and it’s a great color on him.
How would Tim and Matt describe the relationship between Peter and Neal?
Tim imagines Peter and Neal as close friends playing poker together, enjoying it and realizing that nobody else can play the level of poker as the other person does. It’s a relationship that has many layers: sometimes Peter is a father to Neal, sometimes like a brother and sometimes his boss.
For Matt, it’s always the familial between Neal and Peter. Peter is the only person Neal has spent any time with who has set him any boundaries. He describes it like this: “You can go out to the world and change but come back home and there’s still dinner at the table.” (Matt was in a poetic mood.)
What about Neal’s love life this season?
Bridget Regan plays a redhead called Rebecca Lowe who comes into Neal’s life. Their relationship grows over the course of the season – the more Neal knows about her the more attracted he is to her.
How was co-star Willie Garson (aka Mozzie) as a director?
Both Matt and Tim were full of praise for their co-star, saying that he was extremely organized and prepared and knew exactly what he wanted. Matt added that Willie turned up on his first day for the first scene in full Cecil B. DeMille regalia. (As a side note, we will be meeting Peter’s ex-girlfriend in this episode!)
What’s the most important thing that Peter and Neal have learned from each other?
MB: (about what Peter has learned from Neal) How to wear a suit.
TDK: Yeah, how to wear a suit, and how to put on cufflinks without Elizabeth.
On a more serious note:
TDK: Peter has learned to look more at the grey instead of just black and white.
MB: Neal has learned to look at the black and white and not just play in the grey areas. He has also learned about boundaries and to manage his impulses.
TDK: In a way, Peter does not want Neal to manage all his impulses because that is part of his job – this is why Peter wanted to work with Neal, otherwise he would lose the value he adds to the partnership.
Which scene or episode has made Tim and Matt gasp when they read the script?
Matt loved that in past seasons when they had mid-season finales, showrunner and creator Jeff Eastin would dig deep into his bag of tricks to create amazing cliff-hangers. Matt would find himself suddenly BASE-jumping off the top of a building. He adds that there is a fantastical and whimsical element to the show where you have to suspend your disbelief a little. It’s fun to come up with ways to justify why their characters do what they do.
How many more seasons can the show go for?
Both Matt and Tim feel that if the show was shot in Los Angeles where their families are, they would love to continue till Neal is on a walker and Peter in a wheelchair and they would keep doing their walk-and-talks (or as Tim called it, “roll-and-talk”) down the street catching bad guys. However, they would be happy to play out their seven-year contracts.
And yes, the final question from another caller was about whether Matt would ever tweet (in case you missed it, several months ago, a verified @MattBomer Twitter account was created by the USA Network publicists at Matt’s request in an attempt to stop the run of fake accounts using his name). Matt’s reply is that he feels that there is a certain responsibility that comes with the use of social media beyond just interacting with fans. Until he has weighed up those responsibilities, he will remain tweet-free.
WHITE COLLAR Season 5 premieres on the USA Network on Thursday Oct 17th at 9/8c.